The 2018 recruiting cycle came to a close just a couple of weeks ago, but James Franklin and his staff are right back at work as they look to build their 2019 class. February and March are crucial recruiting months as coaches across the nation look to gain a leg up with blue-chip prospects as the practice and game schedules allow them some time and the high school football season has wrapped up.
Penn State’s 2019 class currently only holds two commitments from New Jersey Quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson and State College Cornerback Keaton Ellis. Both players currently hold a three-star ratings in the 247 Sports composite rankings.
Franklin’s staff will attempt to replicate its success from the 2018 recruiting cycle, as the Nittany Lions finished with the fifth ranked class in the nation. Here are some of the elite high school prospects that the Penn State staff is currently targeting and more on their likelihood of actually coming to Penn State.
10. Jahleel Billingsly: tight end, four-star, Illinois
Franklin and his staff did well to offer Billingsly early. The 6’ 5” tight end out of Chicago would add another talented, young player at the position for the Nittany Lions as they go about trying to replace Mike Gesicki’s production from last season.
Billingsly has seen his offer list grow in recent weeks, but Penn State was the first big time program to offer him and is currently looking like the favorites to land the talented tight end.
9. Tyler Rudolph: safety/cornerback, four-star, Connecticut
Another player that the Nittany Lions were able to get in early with, Rudolph would add length — he currently stands at 6’ 1” — and athleticism to the Penn State secondary. Just like Billingsly, Rudolph has also recently received increased attention from big time programs across the nation.
But, also like Billingsly, Penn State’s staff set itself up nicely by offering Rudolph early. The Nittany Lions are currently the team to beat in his recruitment.
8. Steven Faucheux, defensive end/tackle, four-star, Ohio
Under James Franklin, Penn State has been able to do a much better job recruiting Ohio. Ohio State still locks down most of its in-state talent, but Franklin and co. have been able to pluck a couple of solid prospects out of the Buckeye State the last couple of years, including redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Clifford.
It appears that Faucheux could be the latest Ohio prospect to pledge his future to the Nittany Lions. Faucheux currently plays defensive end for his high school team, but due to his size (currently listed at 272 pounds) he could be poised for a position switch in college.
7. Shane Lee, inside linebacker, four-star, Washington, D.C.
Lee has been on the Penn State staff’s radar for a couple of years now. The talented linebacker currently boasts an offer list including the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, and Florida State.
Lee is taking a slow approach to his recruitment and is still currently in the feeling out process, with no one school looking as if it’s leading the way.
Status: In the mix
6. Antonio Alfano, defensive end/tackle, four-star, New Jersey
Alfano is a dynamic pass rusher with impressive athleticism. Just like Faucheux, Alfano’s size (255 pounds) may force him to move inside once he gets to the collegiate level.
Penn State is in a good position with Alfano, but Ohio State is also pushing hard to land his commitment. This has all the makings of a two horse race between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions to land his commitment.
Status: Slight favorite
5. Caedan Wallace, offensive guard, four-star, New Jersey
Wallace is an absolute monster. Already listed at 6’ 5” and 315 pounds, Wallace could push for playing time early in his collegiate career. The Nittany Lions are currently in great standing with Wallace and it would be very surprising if he were to end up anywhere other than Happy Valley.
4. Xavier Truss, offensive tackle, four-star, Rhode Island
Truss is the top offensive lineman currently on Penn State’s radar. The big mauler from Rhode Island also boasts an impressive offer list including Alabama, Michigan, and Oklahoma.
Franklin and his staff have positioned themselves well with Truss, but with interest coming from many top programs across the country, landing his signature is far from guaranteed. Expect the Nittany Lions to be in this one until the end.
Status: In the mix
3. Lewis Cine, safety, four-star, Connecticut
Once again, Franklin and his staff did an excellent job by offering Cine early. Many other top programs across the nation have offered the talented defensive back in recent months, but Penn State is still the favorite to land his signature.
If the Nittany Lions are able to land Cine, he would be the most highly-touted safety prospect that they have recruited under Franklin.
2. Brandon Smith, defensive end/outside linebacker, four-star, Virginia
Smith is a phenomenal athlete who makes plays all over the field. Where he’ll play in college is still up for debate.
Smith currently operates as a defensive end for his high school team, but he would have to add a significant amount of weight (only listed at 215 pounds) to remain there in college. Wherever Smith ends up playing, he should be an impact player for multiple years at the collegiate level.
1. Zach Harrison, defensive end, five-star, Florida
Landing Harrison would be an absolute coup for the Nittany Lions. Currently ranked as the number three overall player in the nation, Harrison will almost certainly play right away as a freshman no matter where he ends up.
Ohio State currently lead the way in Harrison’s recruitment, but with James Franklin recently adding Ja’Juan Seider to his staff, the Nittany Lions could receive a boost in his recruitment. Seider most recently coached at Florida and has already fostered many good relationships with high school coaches throughout the state.
Penn State may trail in Harrison’s recruitment at this point, but don’t be surprised if Seider is able to close the gap over the coming months.
*All star ratings and ranking provided by the 247 sports composite rankings